by Kathryn Willgus
Breaking the Silence 2014 was a week of events hosted by The Gender and Sexual Diversity House, School of Theology, Cornerstone Initiative, Spectrum: Sewanee’s Gay Straight Alliance, and Women’s Center commemorating and culminating in the National Day of Silence. The week started on Sunday, April 6, and ended with The Day of Silence on that Friday, April 11.
The week began on Sunday night with a talk on Homosexuality in The New Testament by Dr. Paul Holloway of the School of Theology. This talk gave a historical background to the New Testament, giving reasons and examples as to why homosexuality was received so poorly in some instances of the text, particularly commenting on ideas of sexuality in and outside of marriage. A screening of God Loves Uganda was shown at the Sewanee Union Theatre on Monday, April 7. This documentary focused on missionaries from the International House of Prayer in Uganda and how their negative influence on the Ugandan government and people. One main point of this documentary was that the Ugandan people were being dominated by the white Christians that came into the countrybecause they were believed to be superior. This is especially evident in the IHOP’s philosophies on LGBTQ rights and how the country of Uganda has passed legislation criminalizing homosexuals in their country.
Tuesday featured a panel called “Untitled: Demystifying Gender and Sexual Identity,” which featured five student panelists discussing their unique, and sometimes unheard of, gender and sexual identities and labels. This panel served to educate people on the diversity and variety in gender and sexual spectrums and also try to allow people to understand these identities, rather than dismissing them as abnormal.
On Wednesday, students from Spectrum: Sewanee’s Gay Straight Alliance Sewanee Young Democratic Socialists gave a presentation entitled, “Crossing Lines: Issues of Intersectionality in the LGBTQ Community.” Intersectionality, the study of how different forms of oppression affect various minority groups, is an issue that affects the LGBTQ community at large. The presentation discussed different forms of oppression, ranging from racism to ageism.
“Positive Thinking: a Discussion on HIV” was the centerpiece of Thursday’s Breaking the Silence activities. The panel consisted of Sewanee students who attended the Spring Break Outreach trip to New York, benefitting the Gay Men’s Health Clinic and representatives from Chattanooga Cares, an HIV/AIDS center in Chattanooga. Caroline Roberts (’14) said about the panel, “The evening’s event took place with warm and supportive environment, and everyone left more knowledgeable.”
The week’s main event, the National Day of Silence, took place on Friday, April 11. Leading up to the day, Spectrum gave out rainbow ribbons and description cards for students to carry to explain to others what the day was and why they were participating. The organization also held a sit-in of sorts outside of the library as a way to show solidarity and support for the day. In the evening, The School of Theology hosted an interfaith healing service for those who had been affected by LGBTQ bullying and harassment.
Immediately following the service, they hosted a Breaking the Silence dinner in Hamilton Hall, where anyone who participated in the Day of Silence was able to come enjoy great catering from Julia’s Fine Foods and thoughtful discussion and reflection on the day’s events. Overall, the week proved to have a good turn-out at most events and a positive attitude felt by most people on campus.